The nearly 700,000 Cambodians most devastated by the country’s worst drought in nearly a decade need almost 6,500 tons of food to get through the end of the year, aid officials said Monday.
After weeks of examining the short-term food supply in the country, the World Food Program has determined that more than 671,000 people are in need of 6,454 tons of food aid immediately, WFP Country Director Rebecca Hansen said.
The UN food agency looked at districts over eight provinces stricken by this year’s drought and set the food needs on four criteria: The poverty of the people’s districts, the rice dependency, rice production and other crop production in their districts, Hansen said.
Oxfam, CARE and Action Against Hunger are all still doing home-by-home surveys to get a better picture of specific needs, but the report issued Friday is the first official word on the overall damage from the droughts.
The question that remains is how much food aid have groups already handed out. From there, officials will determine whether to issue a world appeal for aid, International Federation of the Red Cross head of delegation Anthony Spalton said. “The question now is one of intervention,” he said.
Groups have been rushing aid to stricken families almost from the beginning of this year’s floods, and the government’s National Committee for Disaster Management is expected to chair a discussion to find out how much more the country needs, Hansen said. “We’re just trying to get a sense of the net,” she said.
The food aid will be enough to get poor families through the end of the cold season, when farmers can make a new harvest, but the damage from the drought will probably be felt for time to come, officials say.
“I would say that the food insecurity is here to stay,” Spalton said.
Part of the problem is that droughts—unlike the annual floods—creep up on families, Hansen said. “Floods are kind of quicker onset. Drought is something that affects people over time. It’s more insidious,” she said.
And unlike floods, it’s harder to prepare for drought because it requires more capital and labor.
But that hasn’t stopped aid groups from trying. Authorities are already gearing up for a new round of food-for-work programs building up villages to prepare for next year, Spalton said.
“I don’t think people are dying of starvation, but they have used up their resources,” he said. “It’s a chronic situation that has been worsened by the disasters.”